US won't negotiate with 'terrorists'

2013-01-18 21:01


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Washington - The United States said on Friday it would not strike deals with "terrorists" after Islamist gunmen who seized hostages at a remote gas field in Algeria proposed a swap for prisoners.

"The United States does not negotiate with terrorists," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters when asked about the proposal, declining further elaboration.

Earlier officials said the drama involving Western hostages at the gas field was still "ongoing and sensitive" and the top US priority was the safety of remaining hostages.

Officials said that President Barack Obama was getting frequent updates on the situation after Algerian armed forces launched an operation which freed some hostages, including foreigners, but left around 60 Westerners missing.

The officials said the US government was in constant contact with the Algerian government, after the administration made it clear late on Thursday that it was not aware of the bid to free the hostages from Islamic militants ahead of time.

"We are in close touch with our other international partners, as well as BP's security office in London," said national security council spokesperson Tommy Vietor.

Washington has been restrained in commenting publicly on the situation in Algeria with hostages still in harm's way, but Obama spoke about developments with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday.

Cameron has since emerged as a vocal spokesman about the situation, warning that Britons were still at risk and that the Algerian army was still pursuing "terrorists" and possibly some remaining hostages at the site in a remote area of the Sahara.

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